Door slams on Goromaru's World Cup hopes

Rugby World Cup
by AFP

Japan's coach on Friday said he had definitively shut the door on Ayumu Goromaru for next year's home World Cup, ending any hopes of a repeat of the 2015 heroics which made him a cult figure.

Goromaru, 32, was estimated as the world's richest player following his performances in 2015, when Japan shocked two-time champions South Africa during their best World Cup to date.

A bronze statue and a "Master of Ninjas" title were among the honours bestowed on the goal-kicking fullback, who also had a giraffe named after him at Hamamatsu zoo.

Goromaru-mania reached a peak when fans flocked to see a Buddha statue said to be striking a similar pose to the pin-up's pre-kick routine.

But after unsuccessful stints with the Queensland Reds and Toulon, and a subsequent return to Japan's Yamaha Jubilo, Goromaru's star has fallen.Goromaru's stints with Toulon and the Reds were largely disappointing. Photo: Getty ImagesAsked whether Goromaru would be considered for next year, Japan coach Jamie Joseph told AFP: "He hasn't been in the picture since the (2015) World Cup."

Joseph is now turning his attention full-time to Japan's upcoming Tests against Italy and Georgia, after being drafted in to help out with the Sunwolves, Japan's Super Rugby team, this season.

He boldly targeted the World Cup quarter-finals next year for the Brave Blossoms, who have never reached the knock-out stages despite winning three pool games in 2015.

"We want to make the top eight. We think we can do that," Joseph said in an interview in Hong Kong, where the Sunwolves play the Stormers on Saturday.

"We played some tier-one teams in the last couple of years. We should have beaten France in France in November last year, we drew with them.

"So on our day we can be good. It's different from the Super Rugby competition: we play four days of footy, it's a tournament, very different. So that's our goal."